Wednesday, September 24, 2014
As a teacher of children's and young adult literatures, I talked with my students (more pointedly during Banned Books Week, but all the time) about access to information, reasons for challenges, fear among parents and teachers, and, again, children's and teens' ability to make wise and responsible choices about their reading.
So, this Banned Books Week, which, this year, highlights the contributions of and controversy over graphic novels, I invite my readers to consider their own favorite banned or challenged books. Likewise, I invite you to consider books you might have liked to ban or challenge (or simply reshelve in an obscure location). What are your own reactive impulses toward books you find harmful, painful, insipid, or otherwise objectionable? Do your own impulses (even if you don't act on them) give you insight into or empathy for those who do challenge books? What, ultimately, prevents you from challenging books?
Read more about the ALA's celebration here: Banned Books Week. Read more about challenges and intellectual freedom here ALA's Office of Intellectual Freedom and here National Coalition Against Censorship.
Thursday, September 4, 2014
First, I want to post a link to a relatively new site that offers an abundance of excellent titles that might be below the radar of mainstream and wildly popular lists: We Need Diverse Books. You will find some old favorites here, but also many new, young, and, yes, diverse, authors. They are diverse in age, ethnicity, sexuality--pretty much any way you find diversity, it will be here. The hope is that mainstream and non-mainstream readers alike will find books that reflect, validate, and transcend their own experiences. And that readers who are not white or middle-class may find characters who look more like them than most characters in contemporary children's and YA fiction.
Now, here's a list I've compiled over the years for students who want more YA. The reference points are from my required reading list. Enjoy!
- Feed—M. T. Anderson
- The Uglies trilogy (yes, all four of them) Scott Westerfeld
- The Shadow Children series (first one is Among the Hidden) by Margaret Peterson Haddix (this is for a slightly younger audience, but Haddix is really great—lots of nuance and complexity)
- Matched, Crossed, and Reached by Ally Condie
- Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Last Survivors trilogy (at least, it’s just a trilogy so far): Life as We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In
- How I Live Now—Meg Rosoff
- After—Francine Prose
- The Chaos Walking Trilogy—Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, Monsters of Men)
- Lois Lowry’s Giver Quartet: The Giver, Gathering Blue, The Messenger, and, just recently, Son
The 5th Wave--Rick Yancey (Its sequel, The Infinite Sea, is out this month)
And of course, the ever-popular Hunger Games trilogy (Suzanne Collins), and the Divergent trilogy (Veronica Roth)
The Fault in Our Stars
An Abundance of Katherines
Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan)
- Boy Meets Boy—David Levithan (speaking of him)
- Keeping You a Secret—Julie Anne Peters (because we luuuuurve her!!!)
- Gravel Queen—Tea Benduhn
- The Empress of the World and The Rules for Hearts—Sara Ryan (a wonderful writer!)
- Parrotfish— Ellen Wittlinger (FTM transgender protagonist—more idealistic than Luna)
- The Bermudez Triangle—Maureen Johnson
- Nothing Pink—Mark Hardy
- How Beautiful the Ordinary: a story collection edited by Michael Cart—more beautiful writing from a plethora of authors
- Dive—Stacey Donovan
- Also: more Julie Anne Peters, Ellen Wittlinger, M. E. Kerr, and Alex Sanchez
- Maureen Daly’s Seventeenth Summer (1936)
- From the 1970s: Judy Blume, Norma Klein, Robert Cormier, Paul Zindel, Richard Peck, S.E. Hinton (some of these you’ll need to look for at your local used books dealer and in your library. For instance, I doubt any Norma Klein is still in print. My personal favorites of hers are It’s Okay if You Don’t Love Me and Love is One of the Choices.)
- From the 1980s and 1990s: Caroline B. Cooney (the last of the Janie series is just out), Susan Beth Pfeffer, Lois Duncan, and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Francesca Lia Block: there are many, but you'll want to start with the Dangerous Angels books: Weetzie Bat, Witch Baby, Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys, and Missing Angel Juan.
John Knowles’s A Separate Peace
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
(Just by the by, none of these are cheerful or uplifting. These next two at least have more hope:)
Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
The Arrival—Shaun Tan
Maus and Maus II—Art Spiegelman
American Born Chinese--Gene Luen Yang
Boxers and Saints--Gene Luen Yang
- Robin McKinley—lots of fairy tell retellings, but also her own high fantasy: start with Beauty for the former, then move on to Rose Daughter. For the latter start with The Hero and the Crown, then go on to The Blue Sword (a prequel). Then Chalice, then Pegasus (Pegasus volume two is due in 2015.) She also does some good horror meant for a slightly older audience: Sunshine and Deerskin (also based on a fairy tale [Perrault's "Donkeyskin" and the Grimms' "Many Furs"] and pretty disturbing. But so, so good!)
- Garth Nix: the Abhorsen trilogy: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen; Clariel comes out I believe in October. It will be a prequel. We are VERY EXCITED about it.
- Also Garth Nix: the Sally Lockhart books (more mystery/speculative history than fantasy)
- Neil Gaiman—actually he’s really either for children or grown ups, which means we can ALL read him! Try The Graveyard Book and Coraline
- Terry Pratchett—the Tiffany Aching books are wonderful; I think they’re part of Discworld
Contemporary YA Fiction that I think is awesome. Or at least worth reading.
- Stoner and Spaz and Now Playing: Stoner and Spaz II—Ron Koertge
- All four YA Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books by Ann Brashares, and also the final one, for adults, but it will make you bawl your eyes out the whole time. Not even kidding. But so beautifully written. They please me.
- Fallen Angels and its loose companions Sunrise Over Fallujah and Invasion—Walter Dean Myers. The first is set in the Vietnam War, the second in modern Iraq, and the third during WWII. And anything by Myers is well worth reading. Anything.
- If You Come Softly and Behind You—Jacqueline Woodson (I’m her number one fan, but don’t tell her, ‘cause that sounds kind of stalker-y. She has lots more novels, poetry, and picture books, mostly for a slightly younger audience, but all well-worth reading). Her most recent, Brown Girl Dreaming (as of 9-4-14), just hit the NYTimes best seller list!
- E. Lockhart’s Ruby Oliver series: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends. I know, I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s funny and savvy and has FOOTNOTES!!
- Jaclyn Moriarty: she has a bunch of companion novels that never work directly as prequels of sequels—they market them as Ashbury/Brookfield books. Start with The Year of Secret Assignments
- Maggie Stiefvater: generally a mash-up of contemporary world meets supernatural world; try her Wolves of Mercy Falls series: Shiver, Linger, Forever. (MUCH better in execution than the Twilight series). Her newest one, The Scorpio Races, is by many accounts her best. Except that’s been supplanted, evidently, by her even newer one, Raven Boys and its sequels The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue (out 10-21-14).
- Other authors to check out: Maureen Johnson, Sharon Flake, Benjamin Alire Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe), Louise Rennison, Aidan Chambers, Virginia Hamilton, Chris Crutcher, Francisco X. Stork (Marcelo in the Real World)